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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included eight statements called beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each one highlighted a virtue that results in the highest kind of happiness: sweet contentment not based on circumstances but on joyful faith in God and his provision for all we need.

In addition to the beatitudes of Matthew 5, the Bible offers dozens of blessing-statements—each one an encouraging slice of truth about God and his ways for us. They just aren’t constructed in typical beatitude style.

For example, consider Psalm 37:4:

 

 

Written as a beatitude:

 

Blessed are those who delight in God

for they shall receive the desires of their hearts.

 

Of course, the desires of our hearts often reflect child-sized plans, while God may have designed a “hugely dimensional destiny” that will surprise everyone.[1]

Kara’s* story illustrates. She fully expected to attend university and then enter the world of business. But even with a straight-A average, no scholarship materialized, and her parents earned too much money to qualify for sufficient financial aid.

Unless she took out a large student loan, Kara’s only option was community college. Highly disappointed—embarrassed even—she applied. Meanwhile a letter happened to arrive from that local college, describing a new course of study in TV production.

 

 

Kara had just completed a high school course in multimedia programming and loved it, so she applied for this new program and was accepted. Better yet, God provided full tuition as she earned that degree. And best of all, he molded Kara’s desire to coincide with the delightful and satisfying plan he’d designed for her.

Now years later, Kara and her husband make their living in the entertainment industry. No doubt the two of them marvel how God brought them together to work in a medium they love.

Kara is a miracle.

Romans 5:3-4 offers another beatitude truth:

 

 

As a beatitude it might read like this:

 

Blessed are those who embrace their challenges,

for they shall be changed for the better.

 

Anne wanted to support her husband’s dream of a free counseling service in their community and began making pretzels to sell at the local farmer’s market.

Through long effort and a number of failures, Anne was able to grow the business into hundreds of franchises across the country. You’ve probably eaten one of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels at a mall or airport.

 

 

Anne’s personal life also included struggles, failures, and even the death of one of her children. Yet she says, “I am now thrilled to live this life, feeling that each day is one to be enjoyed. God’s grace and forgiveness are what got me through it all.”[2]

Anne is a miracle.

Our third new beatitude is based on Mark 10:27b:

 

 

Beatitude style?

 

Blessed are those who care less about their limitations

and care more how limitless God is.

 

The bio on the backs of Jennifer Rothschild’s books informs the reader she is a wife, mother, and recording artist. Jennifer also travels the country as a speaker, and cofounded WomensMinistry.NET.

What the bio does not reveal is that Jennifer has been blind since age fifteen. In her book, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, she wrote: “God often wraps difficult gifts with His grace—and then uses them to display His glory.”[3] Jennifer’s productive and joyful life perfectly illustrates that statement.

Jennifer is a miracle.

All three women exemplify what Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote long ago:

 

 

Kara, Ann, Jennifer, and countless other believers demonstrate: When we embrace God’s be-attitudes, we not only experience the highest kind of happiness; we become miracles.

 

*Name changed.

 

Notes:

[1] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, pp. 160-161.

[2] Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, pp. 147-148.

[3]  Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, p. 84.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.stocksnap.io; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Attend a graduation ceremony, participate in a work-related seminar, or just join in a break room conversation, and you might hear one of these statements:

  1. God helps those who help themselves.
  2. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
  3. Success = living life on your own terms.
  4. Believe in yourself.
  5. Follow your heart.
  6. You’ve got this.

 

Such statements are meant to encourage. But are they based on truth, or should a few be tossed in the trash?

Let’s consider:

 

Does God help those who help themselves?

Many people believe this idea comes from scripture. But the Bible teaches God helps those who recognize they can’t help themselves. The wisest course of action is to present each troubling situation to him in prayer before attempting any solution (1).

 

 

If I can dream it, is it a given I’ll able to achieve it?

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to pursue our dreams. Instead, God tells us to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

Not that God doesn’t place desires for the future on our hearts. He gladly helps us achieve all the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to do.

This is what we need to remember: “A God-given dream is never about position . . . it’s always about contribution.” And it’s through God-ordained contribution that we find satisfaction and fulfillment (2).

 

 

Is success a matter of living life on our own terms?

That kind of living most often leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. Instead, God invites us to live the abundant life on his terms.

Some would say, “But God’s ways are so constrictive!” Actually, his truth provides freedom—freedom from the misery of sin and misguided choices. On the other hand, when we live the way he’s expertly designed for us, we enjoy a myriad of blessings (3).

 

 

Should we believe in ourselves?

That puts us in charge, which sounds appealing until you factor in our limited knowledge, imperfect judgment, and inadequate abilities. Due to these restrictions, stress and anxiety become constant companions while we try to keep control over our lives.

How much wiser to trust God who knows all things and can accomplish all things—including the best way to proceed through all our tomorrows.

 

 

Does it make good sense to follow our hearts?

No, our hearts are guided by feelings, desires, and emotions, which cannot always be trusted. Just ask Jennifer—Wife #2 of Jack. She believed his stories about self-centered, temperamental Wife #1. Jennifer told herself, Our marriage will be different. But she is now facing divorce herself as Jack’s eyes have wandered toward someone else.

No, we can’t just follow our hearts. We need the guidance of God’s perfect wisdom (4).

 

 

Have we got this?

Not really. Life can be turned upside down in a moment—bosses terminate employment, sure investments for retirement turn to ashes, doctors reveal devastating diagnoses. What then? I can’t imagine facing such hardships without God.

How much more encouraging to remember: he’s got this. Numerous experiences of others as well as my own have proven: God always sees us through with his perfect wisdom and almighty strength—whatever we face (5).

 

 

Notice how each of these statements in bold print revolves around usour effort, our planning, our confidence—even though we’re prone to make mistakes and foolish choices. God is the only One with the wherewithal to achieve what’s best for us—100% of the time.

As it happens, all these common statements can be tossed in the trash.

So when someone says, “Believe in yourself ,”or “You’ve got this,” perhaps we could respond with a gentle nudge toward truth:

Actually, I’m eternally grateful that Someone much stronger and wiser than I am is in charge. Experience has taught me, I am much better off trusting in God than in myself.

 

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 56:3; 2 Chronicles 14:11; https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-life/why-god-helps-those-who-help-themselves-is-presumed-to-be-biblical.html
  2. 1 Timothy 2:22; Ephesians 2:10; https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/why-god-doesn-t-necessarily-want-you-to-pursue-your-dreams.html
  3. Proverbs 12:15; John 8:32; see Alphabet of Joy for examples of such blessings
  4. Romans 11:33
  5. Philippians 4:19

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.dailyveres.net; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Nicole blinked twice as she stared at the number on the doctor’s scale. She knew a few more pounds had glommed on her midsection, but seven?

 

 

During the ensuing consult with Dr. Ames, Nicole mentioned her knees had started to hurt, she felt tired much of the time, and seemed susceptible to every virus that came along. Dr. Ames then shared Nicole’s blood work, revealing several more concerns. His treatment solution surprised her. “I’m going to send you to a nutritionist,” he said.

Three months later, Nicole already felt much stronger and healthier—energized even. Her knees no longer hurt, and her blood pressure and cholesterol had dropped dramatically. Nicole had learned her diet included too many simple carbs and high-fat proteins, depleting her body of strength, energy, and good health.

It’s a fact: we can’t function well without proper nutrition.

 

 

The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. We can’t function well when our souls are improperly nourished. We need to ingest spiritual vitamins.

For example, consider Vitamin A. As a physical nutrient in our food, it improves our eyesight—specifically night vision. In the spiritual realm, Vitamin A might represent Adoration of God, which improves our “vision” through dark circumstances.

 

 

“When we choose to practice adoration anyway

in the midst of whatever we are feeling,

our words lift us over that barrier

and into a deeper connectedness with God.”

—Sarah Hagerty[1]

 

That deeper connectedness with God results in strength and perseverance for what we face.

 

The benefits of the Vitamin B complex include converting food into energy. In our spirits, the Bible energizes us as we convert the food of truth into the energy of faith.

 

 

“I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day.

I wonder why they deprive themselves

of the strength and the pleasure.”

—Woodrow Wilson[2]

 

Vitamin C enhances the growth of bone, skin, and muscle. Companionship with God causes us to grow in faith, character, and contentment—no matter our circumstances.

 

 

“The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life,

the more likely you are to praise Him in the storm.”

–Matt Chandler[3]

 

Vitamin D plays a role in fighting germs. Delight in God’s blessings fights off the germs of melancholy and discouragement in our souls.

 

 

“Thankfulness restores a healthy perspective about our lives.”

—Valerie Bell[4]

 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Empowerment from God protects against soul damage—from such hurtful emotions as fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.

 

 

“When God is recognized as the One who undertakes for us,

then difficulties are opportunities to trust Him . . .

contentment sings in the heart,

and all things are possible.”

—F. E. Marsh[5]

 

Vitamin K promotes healthy bones which support the body; knowledge of God supports the soul as we affirm his goodness and perfections.

 

 

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;

to seek Him, the greatest adventure;

to find Him the greatest human achievement.”

—St. Augustine

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that as we absorb these soul-vitamins into our spirits, our trust in you will grow. We’ll find our strength renewed, and be able to run the race of life without lapsing into despair. May we be mindful each day to be enriched in your presence, in your Word, and in your power.

(Isaiah 41:31; Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 119:28; Ephesians 6:1)

 

Notes:

[1] Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 151

[2] Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Epson, Inspirio, 2002, p. 40

[3] https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-life/inspirational-christian-quotes-about-love.html

[4] A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 102

[5] Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd C. Cory, Victor Books, 1977, p. 136

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picpedia.org; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixy.com; http://www.hearlight.org; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Uncertain times.

That phrase appears everywhere these days. Between the pandemic, political upheaval, social unrest, and concerns for the future, we can find ourselves desperate to find security—freedom from danger, fear, and anxiety.

But there is only one reliable source of security: God.

 

 

Out of his faithfulness to us, God always supplies what we need. And as it happens, the word FAITHFUL provides a tidy acrostic for eight blessings we enjoy–no matter what.

God is our:

Faithful promise-keeper. He is already ahead of us in the uncertainty of 2021, just as he went ahead of Joshua and the Israelites into Canaan. He has promised not to fail us or abandon us[1]—even when we cross dark valleys of troubling circumstances.

 

 

Attentive Father. Before we put our needs into words, God is on his way to meet it.[2]

Immutable (unchanging) Rock. He “does not change like shifting shadows.”[3] In a world where situations and relationships can change unexpectedly, God remains his rock-solid, reliable, perfect self.

Truth-Revealer.   The truth of God’s Word has been proven through numerous disciplines and in the lives of millions. Within its pages we find the wisdom and support we need.[4]

 

 

“The remedy for discouragement is the Word of God.

When you feed your heart and mind with its truth,

You regain your perspective and find renewed strength.”

–Warren Wiersbe

 

Hope. Our God of hope fills us with all joy and peace as we trust him. Hope allows us to see his blessings even amid hardship, and know with certainty he will use even our painful circumstances to accomplish good.[5]

Foundation. God’s ways provide a strong foundation for life, especially when storms of sorrow come. He upholds us with his love and compassion, peace and comfort that transcend our ability to explain.[6]

 

 

Unerring and righteous Judge. “Your kingdom is founded on righteousness and justice,” wrote the psalmist, “love and faithfulness are shown in all you do.” And because he is righteous and just, everything will work toward the best outcome in the end.[7]

Light, even in dark times.[8] Too often we focus on the swirling blackness of circumstances around us. But “God’s lights in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them.”[9]

 

 

Throughout my years as a blogger, I’ve shared many experiences illustrating how God has been faithful to our family. One in particular comes to mind that encompassed all of the above blessings.

Leadership of our church denomination assigned my pastor-husband to another church across state.   We were not ready to move. God ministered to me during those dark days of transition as I journaled through the psalms, affirming his love and compassion, peace and comfort. And as a result, hope began to blossom.

 

 

I grew in spiritual strength, compelled to rely on him through the grief of leaving beloved friends and the uncertainty of what lay ahead. He miraculously provided a teaching position for me not far from our new home. And in the end everything did work for good as that struggling church became a thriving community. (You can read a fuller account at After the Fact.)

In a book of liturgy, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) kept a bookmark with the following affirmation:

 

“Let nothing disturb you; let nothing dismay you;

all things pass: God never changes.

Patience attains all it strives for.

He who has God finds he lacks nothing.

God only suffices.”

 

God only—in all the numerous demonstrations of his faithfulness–is our certain security.

 

_______________________________________

 

Should you wish to read more examples of God’s faithfulness, you can click on the following links:

 

Notes:

[1] Deuteronomy 31:6

[2] Matthew 6:8

[3] James 1:17c CSB

[4] Psalm 119:24, 140, 160

[5] Romans 15:13; 8:28

[6] Isaiah 54:10; Philippians 4:6-7

[7] Psalm 89:14 GNT; Genesis 50:20

[8] Psalm 27:1

[9] Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment (J. Countryman, 2000) p. 195

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Just for fun I Googled “strategies that lead to a satisfying life.” Of course numerous articles popped up, offering a multitude of suggestions. One article listed twenty ways for achieving fulfillment.

But researchers have determined it takes sixty-six days on average to develop a new habit (1). That means twenty new habits would require concentrated effort for nearly four years. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it.

However, as you’ve already noted from the title of this post, it is possible to turn a humdrum life into exceptional with just one strategy: gratitude to God.

 

 

But how can one simple act make such a difference?

I’ll explain in a moment. First, let’s identify the key word in that statement above: God. Without someone to thank, gratitude is pointless. And he is responsible for every good gift in our lives. By thanking God for his blessings, we unlock the fullness of life (2).

Here’s how it happens:

 

Gratitude fosters joy and contentment.

When we aim to thank God for the benefits he bestows, the delightful encounters he provides, and the beauty he’s created, we soon realize our days overflow with his gifts. And each one gives reason to smile.

 

 

Gratitude leads to peace.

Remember Isaiah 26:3?  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (ESV). Gratitude to God is a delightful way to stay focused on him and thereby calm our hearts into serenity.

 

Gratitude contributes to resiliency.

Researchers Tennen and Afflek (2002) found that when people express gratitude even while suffering adversity or trauma, they tend to persevere with greater strength than those who don’t practice thankfulness (3).

John MacArthur beautifully described the phenomenon with this bit of imagery:

 

 

“No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

 

Gratitude increases our trust in God.

We can begin with grateful remembering of his marvelous deeds in the past, to form a foundation of faith for the present. Also, by expressing thankfulness in difficult circumstances and gratefully acknowledging God’s support and supply, our perspective is transformed.

 

I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

–Psalm 12:5-6

 

And when all of these results-of-gratitude are present in one person—effervescent joy, sublime contentment, luminous peace, buoyant resiliency, and unshakable trust—we see an exceptional life.

 

 

It all begins with gratitude.

 

When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether

you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

–G. K. Chesterton

 

And how do we learn to take things with gratitude?

Researchers have studied that too, and found gratitude journals to be highly effective (4).

 

 

 

They suggest keeping a record of pleasurable observations and positive experiences such as:

  • Happy squeals of neighbor children as Daddy pushes their swings
  • An overcast day made cozy with glowing candles, simmering soup, and rain thrumming on the roof
  • Being taught by a seven-year old granddaughter how to add two-digit numbers in a new and clever way
  • Those places where God has brushed all of autumn’s colors in one swath

 

 

Gratitude bestows . . .transcendent moments of awe

that change forever how we experience life and the world.

–Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

So instead of wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving Day, blog-friends, I pray for you an exceptional life–of gratitude!

 

____________________________

 

If you keep a gratitude journal, please share your experience in the comment section below. How has it contributed to an exceptional life for you?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit#takeaway
  2. James 1:17 and https://melodybeattie.com/gratitude-2/
  3. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-happiness-research/
  4. https://www.pointloma.edu/resources/counseling-psychology/what-good-gratitude-role-thanksgiving-personal-development

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (3).

 

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Up on a knoll toward the edge of her inherited property, Bea Leever sat on the familiar lookout rock, surveying the land they’d named Kerah Farm. The view from this vantage point never grew old.

Off to the west stretched the family’s fields—squat and leafy soybeans; thick, tall corn; and golden-topped wheat rippling in the breeze. Some of the harvest would feed her family and the farmhands, the rest they’d sell.

 

 

Close to the house on the south side, a large garden provided more vegetables, and a dozen hens in the chicken coop produced plenty of eggs.

Beyond the garden stood the orchard of apple, pear, and cherry trees—plenty of fruit for everyone on the farm to enjoy and more produce to sell. To the east, beyond the cow pasture, a large grove of oak and maple trees kept them supplied with fuel for the wood stove.

 

 

And all around the perimeter of Kerah Farm, stout fences and thick hedges provided security.

Yes, from time to time difficulties like storms, drought, and pests presented challenge. And the crops, garden, and animals certainly required much labor, but nothing offered greater satisfaction than watching seedlings become lush crops, blossoms become plentiful fruit, or garden produce become jewel-toned canning jars lined up on shelves.

 

 

Now that Bea Leever had tasted farm life, she would never leave.

Bea remembered the day she first entered the property, and the immediate sense of peace that engulfed her spirit. She’d been so wrapped up in her worries and doubts prior to making the turn at the gate, the complete change of heart surprised Bea. Very soon the farm became her beloved refuge.

 

 

From then on, when fear tried to overtake her, Bea would climb to this rock on the hill and survey the beautiful inheritance bestowed upon her. She praised God for the more-than-adequate provisions offered within the farm’s boundaries, the gratifying work it afforded, and the security within its borders.

In no time, that comforting sense of peace would return.

_______________________________

 

Like Jesus’ parable of the sower in which various types of soil represent various responses to his message, this parable-of-sorts includes various blessings of every believer (“Bea Leever”).

Did you find them, hidden among the imagery?  For example:

Bea inherited the physical blessing of land; we believers inherit the spiritual blessings of God (1).  She enjoyed the provision of crops and animals; we enjoy God’s provision of every need.

 

 

Bea found joy and satisfaction in her work; believers find joy in their work for God and the development of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (2).

She experienced great peace within the security of Kerah Farm; we experience great peace within the shelter of the Almighty (3).

Her life changed forever upon entering the farm gate; believers’ lives are also changed forever upon entering the Gate—Jesus—and into relationship with their Heavenly Father (4).

Just as she often visited the rock on a hill, a place that strengthened her spirit, we also go to our Rock—the Lord Most High–who is perfect and just, faithful and upright.

 

 

Bea thanked her Lord for the blessed life of Kerah* Farm; believers thank him for the blessed and abundant spiritual life Jesus provides (5).

And just as Bea Leever prayed, so do we:

Gracious Father, in spite of challenging events that sometimes overtake us, we thank you for your beautiful and bountiful provision.  We also praise you for your gracious goodness, all manifested in your wonderful deeds. Who, oh Lord, can compare with you?!  

(Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 113:5)

 

 

*Kerah is the ancient Hebrew word for provision.

 

What else might you envision on Bea Leever’s farm that coincides with our lives in God? Share your imaginings in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 16:6 NET Bible; Ephesians 1:3-14
  2. Colossians 3:23-24; Galatians 3:23-24
  3. Psalm 4:8; Psalm 91:1
  4. John 10:9
  5. John 10:10

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.repo.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com.

 

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“This is our daughter, Diane,” explained Betty, a church member where my husband had just become pastor. “Diane actually attends another church in town, but sometimes she visits with us.” Betty smiled up at her daughter and wrapped an arm around her waist. “She’s a teacher, too.”

 

 

That was all Betty needed to say to launch Diane and me into a conversation about all things school. We quickly discovered both of us had taught third grade the previous year.

“Listen,” Diane interjected. “It’s summer; I don’t have anything important going on. Let me help you unpack or wipe down cupboards—whatever you need done.”

And so the following week, Diane and I spent a pleasurable morning emptying boxes, organizing the contents, and getting better acquainted.

 

 

“Tell me about where you teach,” I prompted, while we released china from its bubble wrap at the dining room table.

Diane began to describe her private school—just two classes at each grade level with only twenty-two or so children per room, highly involved parents, strong discipline, and just five minutes from our house. The more she talked, the more delightful her situation sounded.

“Now,” she invited, “tell me about your experience.”

I explained that the week before Moving Day, I’d completed my first year back in the classroom after a long hiatus as stay-at-home mom with our three children. It was no exaggeration to say my learning curve had been steeper than the students’.

Diane commiserated with my circumstances. She was well-acquainted with the process ahead of me, having moved from another state herself just a few years before: the prospect of substitute teaching in order to become known in the district, applying for positions, and interviewing.

 

 

If a position was offered, the next challenges would include absorbing the way another school system worked and mastering its different curricula—likely at a different grade level. No doubt, another steep learning curve loomed ahead.

But my frustration ran deeper than what I confided in Diane that day. The transition to this new community made no sense. We’d been perfectly happy where we were, and the previous church hadn’t wanted my husband to move either.

Such a change seemed counter-productive to us, but the state-level leadership of our denomination considered it necessary. We grieved and prayed; the kids and I cried.  We also wondered: what was God up to?

Before Diane left that day, she offered to submit my name for the substitute list at her school and gave me the address. Sometime later I checked out the location, heeding her warning that the campus was hidden among trees, the entrance on a one-block street. Who knows how long we would have lived there before discovering this school on our own?

 

 

The first call to substitute came one morning just as I began my work out. “Can you be here within the hour?” asked the secretary. In record time I was showered, dressed, out the door and down the road, playing “Farmer in the Dell” with preschoolers.

For lunch I expected to purchase something in the cafeteria. Silly me—still in public school mode. Here the kids and staff brought their lunches from home. When one of the other teachers learned I had no lunch, she scrounged up an instant cup-of-soup, crackers, a box of raisins, and a tea bag.

 

 

“I’m sorry that’s all I can offer you,” she apologized. But I was greatly impressed by her effort to take care of a woman she didn’t know. And first impressions count.

The school called often, offering me experience at various grade levels, familiarizing me with their curriculum, and allowing me to become acquainted with the friendly faculty and staff. I began to pray God would open up a position for me at this school. But as the months passed, full-time employment seemed unlikely. No one was close to retirement; no one was leaving.

In April, however, the headmaster offered me a position. One of the fourth grade teachers had just been elected mayor of her community. Trying to fulfill those responsibilities and teach was more than she wanted to tackle. I would start that August, which gave me the summer to prepare. An added bonus: my classroom would be right next door to Diane’s.

 

 

When that job opportunity opened up, it was as if God turned a spotlight on His plan. After the fact I could see how he’d miraculously arranged the whole sequence of events—from the moment Betty introduced me to Diane, to the headmaster’s offer of employment.

The disappointment over leaving my previous position had turned into a God-ordained appointment at my new school, a much better situation, and one that lasted twenty-two years.

 

 

Have you experienced a spotlight moment?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.asan.af.mil; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere; http://www.flickr; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Some of our excursions through town take my husband and me past a fountain called The Muse. In summer, water gently spills from the lovely maiden’s hands while a ring of water-arches play at her feet. But even in winter her graceful form draws attention.

 

 

Downtown a much grander, three-level fountain, Genius of Water, doesn’t just draw attention—the size demands it. In place of the mild flow of The Muse, streams of water plummet from the outstretched hands of a nine-foot woman. Below her, fountains shoot plumes of water upward, and lower yet streams cascade into a pool.

 

 

I love fountains, don’t you? Perhaps it’s the “calming call of splashing water reminding us to relax and breathe amidst our busy days’ distractions” (1).

Perhaps it’s their appeal to four out of five of our senses, beginning with their sound of peaceful, liquid-music. But fountains are usually lovely to behold as well:

 

(Buckingham Fountain in Chicago,

often listed among the most beautiful in the world.)

 

And who can resist wading in a fountain’s pool—if allowed—which includes the sense of touch?

 

(The Pineapple Fountain, Charleston, SC)

 

Sometimes on hikes through state and national parks we’ve discovered cold, natural-spring fountains. Nothing tastes sweeter after a long trek.

 

 

And because of their delights, it’s not surprising that a psalmist turned to fountains for a lovely metaphor:

 

 

Perhaps he chose plural form because we enjoy a constant flow of so many wonders :

  • God’s attributes into our lives—his love, grace, mercy, and goodness
  • Countless gifts—like peace, joy, comfort, and blessings
  • Empowerment from God, including strength to persevere, patience to endure, and the Holy Spirit to guide

All that refreshes is from God.

And then he offers us a gratifying privilege. We get to be revitalizing fountains in the lives of others.

 

 

What might that look like—or in this case, sound like? No doubt, encouragement, comfort, and wisdom should be included.

 

Words of Encouragement

 

“Correction does much,

but encouragement does more.”

–Johann Wolfang von Goethe

 

One day after school, the father of one of our previous students stopped in the classrooms of my fourth grade colleagues and me.  His purpose?  To tell us we were the dream team. His fifth grade son was flourishing and this dad wanted to thank us for the sound preparation the boy had received.

We hung onto his statement from that moment forward. Every time we became overwhelmed, distraught, or discouraged, we’d remind each other: “Wait a minute–we’re the dream team!”

Just four words, but flowing with life.

 

Words of Comfort

 

 

What an honor God’s given us to speak his comfort and contribute to that overcoming Helen Keller spoke of—words such as these:

  • “I am so sorry.”
  • “I wish I knew the perfect words to ease your pain, but please know I hate that you are facing these circumstances.”
  • “You are constantly in my thoughts.”
  • “This is my prayer for you…”

It doesn’t have to be profound; just heartfelt.

 

Words of Wisdom

One time when I hit a rough patch, God brought to mind a friend who’d endured cancer—twice. The words, “Why me?” had never left her lips. Instead she asked, “Why not me?” and trusted God to bring good out of the suffering.

My circumstances didn’t begin to compare with her cancer diagnosis. If M. could trust God through her trial, I could certainly do the same.

 

There’s another phenomenon that occurs as we become fountains of life to others:

 

 

As God pours himself into us, we pour ourselves into others, and he receives honor and praise.

In the end, that’s the greatest satisfaction of fountain-living: to be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12).

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew Williams, https://ndsmcobserver.com/2017/08/why-are-we-fascinated-by-fountains/
  2. Longfellow quote taken from “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie.”

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.maxpixel.net; wwwlflickr.com; http://www.needpix.com (2); http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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If you’ve ever weeded an early spring garden, you know how tricky it can be to sort seedlings from weedlings.

In the garden of the mind mentioned in the above poem, the weeds of lies can be particularly difficult to recognize—such lies as these:

 

1. God can’t possibly love me because I mess up all the time.

The problem is we think God sees us the same way critical people do—like the spinster great-aunt who looked down her nose at energetic children, like the teacher who frequently criticized, or the boss who was never satisfied.

That’s not God.

He knows we’re incapable of perfection and looks upon us with the compassion of a loving father.  No matter the sin, God is always ready to forgive (1)–and forget–as we repent:

 

 

 

Take this to heart: “Our God has a big eraser!”–Bill Zeoli (2).

And we can use that big eraser of love, compassion, and forgiveness to erase Lie #1.

 

2. I am insignificant.

God would have us know:  “There is no such thing as an insignificant person or an insignificant place or an insignificant position” (3).

Take a refresher course on your status:

  • The Prince of Peace died for you.
  • The King of glory is always thinking about you.
  • You have been adopted into his royal family.
  • You can enter his throne room whenever you like.
  • Your work has been specifically commissioned by the Sovereign Lord of the universe (4).

 

 

We run into trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. Here’s what we need to affirm: “My significance is not based on what I do; it is based on Whose I am.”

 

3. It’s obvious my prayers don’t matter…

A.  …because there’s been no answer. 

Here’s a thought:

 

 

But there are a number of possibilities why prayers seem to go unanswered, including:

  • Unbeknownst to us, the answer has already come. A young man praying for a wife may already have met his future bride; he just doesn’t know it.
  • Sometimes God gives us what we need, not simply what we ask for. A young teen might pray that her family not have to move across state, but five years later, ends up earning a much-needed college scholarship from their new church.
  • We benefit from the spiritual discipline of asking, growing in faith, and persevering as we wait.

If our God is 100% good—and he is—then it follows:

 

 

B. …Almighty God doesn’t need me to accomplish his plans.

 You’re right; God can do anything he pleases—without us.

But he instituted prayer as a way for us to come alongside him and participate in the good purposes he’s ordained. He allows us to share in the release of his power as we intercede for one another.

Lord Tennyson spoke of the power of prayer in his poem, Idylls of the King:

 

 

One day we’ll know the magnitude of the exact number. And won’t it be satisfying to have participated in God’s monumental work?

 

_______________________________________

 

Now that we’ve removed these three weed-lies from the gardens of our minds, we can enjoy to the fullest these flowers of God’s truth:

He remembers our sins no more.

We are precious in his eyes.

He always responds to our prayers (5).

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 103:13-14, 3, 10.
  2. Quoted in Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Press, 1977, 121.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz, The Vision, of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996, 77.
  4. Isaiah 9:6; 1 John 4:9-10; Psalm 139:17; Ephesians 1:5; 1 Peter 3:12; Ephesians 2:10.
  5. Isaiah 43:25; 43:4; Psalm 102:17.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com.

 

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Soon-to-be-king David faced big trouble. Some of his own men, who had fought with him for years against enemy tribes and King Saul, were now talking of stoning him.

He and his troops had just returned from Gath to their base in Ziklag, and found their homes burned as well as their wives and children kidnapped by the Amalekites.

David and his men exhausted themselves with weeping (1 Samuel 30:1-5). But note the leader’s response to his anguish: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6). The King James Version says: “David encouraged himself.”

I can imagine him meditating on the worship songs he had written. Lines such as these may have played in his mind:

 

 

  • “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge” (16:1).
  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (18:2a).
  • “The Lord preserves those who are true to him” (31:23b).

 

We too can encourage ourselves when life’s pathways deteriorate into rough terrain. And the psalms are the perfect place to begin.

In addition, God has gifted writers through the ages since biblical times who supply wisdom and inspiration for his people. We’d do well to take note of their words also.

Following are a few encouragement-gems I’ve collected over the years. I pray they lift your spirit too.

 

1. Has your life-path become strewn with rocks?

 

 

“With God’s help the rocks can become stepping stones” (1).

Surely you’ve experienced the phenomenon: difficulties turned into perseverance, frustrations into patience, and temptations into self-control as we learned to rely upon God more consistently (2). And now when we look back on those rocks-become-stepping-stones, it’s with gratitude.

 

2.  Do your days feel dull, repetitious, and ordinary?

God is the Manager on the stage of life, “in control of all the players. In the midst of what seems terribly ordinary, he is doing something extraordinary” (3).

Count on it. Our extraordinary God can do nothing less (4).

 

3.  Are you discouraged because you haven’t already become the person you want to be?

 

 

A radio DJ recently said: God isn’t so much interested in who we are today; he’s looking at what we’re becoming.

And praise God, he doesn’t leave that becoming solely to us. He’s our loving, participatory Father always guiding us along (5).

 

4.  Do the world’s problems seem insurmountable and your prayers insignificant?

On the contrary, our prayers matter very much. “Herbert Butterfield, the Oxford historian of modern history, is convinced that what Christians do in prayer is the most significant factor in the shaping of history—more significant than war and diplomacy, more significant than technology and art” (6).

Such an observation from a distinguished scholar inspires me to be more faithful in praying for our beleaguered country and other nations, to follow more intently Paul’s appeal to “pray without ceasing” (7).

 

5.  Are you uncertain about your future and your ability to handle what’s ahead?

 

 

Remember: God does not equip us in advance. That would cancel the need for faith—a very important commodity to him. Instead God chooses to give us what we need when we need it (8).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God! Your watchful eye is upon each of us, your listening ear bent to our prayers, your strong hand ready to support and guide, your unlimited intellect disposed to teach us truth. I praise you for your acts of power and your surpassing greatness!

 (1 Peter 3:12; Isaiah 41:10; Proverbs 2:1-4; Psalm 150:2)

 

 

What encouraging word have you heard or read recently? Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Barbara Johnson, Pack up Your Gloomies in a Great Big Box, Word Publishing (1993), 83.
  2. James 1:2-4; Psalm 37:7-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13
  3. Alice Mathews, A Woman God Can Use, Discovery House (1990), 77.
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  5. Philippians 2:13; Psalm 139:24b
  6. Eugene Peterson, Under the Predictable Plant, William B. Eerdmans (1992), 98.
  7. 1 Thessalonians 5:13
  8. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers (2004) 123, and Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 6:34; Luke 12:31; Philippians 4:19.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pikist.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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